How to Stop Lying in Recovery

When I got sober, one of the things I looked most forward to was that I wouldn’t have to lie to anyone anymore. What I didn’t count on was that lying became a habit, almost an addiction unto itself.
I realized that while I had been lying to preserve my habit, keep loved ones around, and to avoid judgement from people, I was also creating a sort of fantasy world that I couldn’t seem to let go of after I stopped drinking. It was safer there where I did not have to face any of the demons that set me on the path to drinking in the first place.

Why is it so Easy to Lie?

There are a number of reasons why I found myself continuing to lie:

  • Fear of the consequences of my actions. I had gotten so used to trying to protect myself from the consequences of being an addict.
  • It was a habit that was hard to break, because it became second nature for me to lie.
  • While the long-term consequences of lying are usually negative, it did generate more desirable short-term outcomes. As an addict, I was living day to day; I didn’t think about the long term.
  • Lies that are said to protect people’s feelings are acceptable in our society. I found myself rationalizing that I was sparing people’s feelings when I lied about things, but it was really more for me, about avoiding a negative response.

Dishonesty in Recovery

Lying while in recovery can be very dangerous. It can definitely lead to relapse, because when lying, you are reverting back to ineffective coping strategies to deal with life. Drinking or using is often the next step. Some other reasons lying is dangerous are:

  • It kept me from moving forward in my recovery. And it happened when I stopped being honest with myself and other people.
  • When family and friends caught me in lies, they were gravely disappointed and began to pull back from me.
  • I felt guilty about it, which kept me from discovering true happiness in and about my recovery.
  • Falling back into behaviors that led to my addiction in the first place caused me to question my sobriety.

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How to Stop

This is where AA really helped me with their 12-step program. It requires rigorous honesty, so that kept me on track. I learned that by calling on a higher power, (in my case, God) I was able to see myself as a positive person, but not in a self-centered way.
I also learned to how act on my new commitment to change by:

  • Admitting that I had a problem with lying. As long as I was in denial, I wasn’t going to stop.
  • Selecting someone to be accountable to. This can be anyone you feel comfortable with. I chose my sponsor.
  • Considering the risks. I did not want to lose people’s trust. Coming clean gave me a second chance.
  • Journaling. By documenting what I was doing, I was able to reflect on the reasons why I lied and what I could do to change it.
  • Setting positive goals. This gave me something to feel good about myself. Lying was no longer necessary to feel that way.

Recovery from lying required intense soul-searching and facing my shameful feelings. It was my job to address them instead of trying to drown them out by drinking. I learned that while rigorous honesty can be difficult and painful, the reward is great. I came to love myself and others, imperfections and all.